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The Private Lives of Birds: A Scientist Reveals the Intricacies of Avian Social Life
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The Private Lives of Birds: A Scientist Reveals the Intricacies of Avian Social Life [Hardcover]

Bridget Stutchbury
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Biologist Stutchbury looks at the most intimate details of bird life to better understand the myriad ways in which birds are endangered. She refers to herself as a “bird detective,” investigating avian social lives, including cheating spouses, divorce, territorial claims, and the appeal of the opposite sex. In particular she focuses on group behavior and mating rituals, delving into the mysteries behind avian courtship that explain the practicalities of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest.” While her sense of humor is certainly present, the science here is significant, as when she reveals the effects of noise pollution on birdsong and mating, how a surging biofuel industry impacts prairie-chicken nesting habits, and the stark discovery of the lingering impact of DDT on avian brain size. There is cheekiness in visualizing birds as cheating lovers and fretful spouses, but the science is solid, and for many species, understanding their “social needs” is utterly critical. Stutchbury offers a fine step-up for readers looking to move beyond folksy bird-watching memoirs and into the lives of the birds themselves. --Colleen Mondor


“This is an excellent overview of wild bird behavior, social relationships, courtship, and breeding, which are surprisingly structured and complex. Well researched, this is highly recommended for academic and large public libraries, natural history and psychology collections, and readers with more than a superficial attraction to nature.”Library Journal
“Be warned: reading The Private Lives of Birds is likely to make you chuck in your present job to become a bird biologist. Who would have known that our beloved wild birds would turn out to be liars, cheats, and bullies? In elegant and lucid prose, Stutchbury explains why birds act the way they do.”—Glen Chilton, author of The Curse of the Labrador Duck

“The bird detective delivers in many ways, packaging facts and insights, science and adventure with a folksy delivery that never undermines the seriousness of her research.” The Olympian (Olympia, WA)

“Stutchbury’s new, informal work on bird behavior just begs to be read under a backyard tree. The book could serve as beach reading too; marine birds such as the albatross and rhinoceros auklet put in appearances.”—Susan Milius, Science News

The Private Lives of Birds is a treasure trove of fascinating insights into bird behavior…. An interesting introduction into bird biology.”GrrlScientist, The Birdbooker Report

“Stutchbury offers a fine step-up for readers looking to move beyond folksy bird-watching memoirs and into the lives of the birds themselves.”—Booklist

“With her trademark clarity and humor, Bridget Stutchbury—‘bird detective’ extraordinaire—reveals avian lives of uncommon drama, rife with adultery, divorce, sibling rivalry, lying, social climbing and life-or-death marathons—a peek into a world at once familiar and wonderfully different from our own.”—Scott Weidensaul, author of Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding

“Bridget Stutchbury dodges killer bees, wakes before dawn to follow birds through the forest, and peers through a ‘riparia-scope’ at hundreds of eggs. Don't miss her stories of personal adventure and her far-reaching scientific synthesis explaining the amazing behaviors of birds and what they mean for the birds' survival and future.”—Miyoko Chu, author of Songbird Journeys

 “A treasure-house of insights into the lives of birds and the glorious evolutionary energy that powers their displays and courtship—and their not infrequent infidelities.”—Graeme Gibson, author of The Bedside Book of Birds

“It’s not easy to produce a specialized book that is simultaneously erudite and engrossing, but Stutchbury pulls it off for the most part . . . Stutchbury’s book is packed with information, both salacious and sage.”—Quill & Quire (starred review) (review of Canadian edition, The Bird Detective)

About the Author

Bridget Stutchbury completed her Ph.D. at Yale, was a fellow and research associate at the Smithsonian Institute, and is now professor of biology at York University. She is affiliated with more than a dozen organizations that seek to preserve bird habitats. Her book, The Silence of the Songbirds, was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Non-fiction.
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